What Is Literacy?

Literacy for the 21st century: A guiding definition


Literacy involves a complex set of abilities to understand and use the dominant symbol systems of a culture for personal and community development at home and at work.  The need and demand for these abilities vary in different contexts and societies.  In a technological society, the concept is expanding to include digital media in addition to print alphabets and numbers.  Individuals must be given learning opportunities to move along a continuum that includes reading, writing, and numeracy in print and digital environments and the critical understanding and decision-making abilities they need in their lives.  However a culture defines it, literacy touches every aspect of individual and community life.  It is an essential foundation for learning through life and must be valued as a human right.

Source:  The Centre for Literacy,1989, revised in 2014

Return to Top